Chilean dictator Agusto Pinochet (L) and Argentine dictator Rafael Videla (R) | Photo: Wikimedia Commons
U.S. President Donald Trump met with Argentine President Mauricio Macri on Thursday, handing over 931 declassified Department of State records related to Operation Condor.
Operation Condor was a Cold War-era campaign of violence across Latin America that resulted in tens of thousands of activist deaths.
Trump’s release falls in line with former President Barack Obama’s promise to release intelligence documents about human rights abuses committed by the Argentine military dictatorship during the 1970s and 1980s.
Entitled “Secret/Exdis,” the declassified documents provide new insight into U.S. support for human rights abuses in Argentina and neighboring countries. Here’s what the reports divulged.
They describe Operation Condor as a trans-border, multinational effort by Southern Cone secret police services to “track down” and “liquidate” regime opponents, the National Security Archive reports.
They reveal that the orchestrators of Operation Condor considered establishing “field offices” in the United States and Europe.
They provide information about former President Jimmy Carter’s propping up of former dictator Rafael Videla in 1977. It has also been confirmed that Orlando Letelier, chief economist for former Chilean President Salvador Allende, was killed by members of Chile’s intelligence service under the Augusto Pinochet dictatorship.
Moreover, they include details about the censorship of U.S. Buenos Aires embassy human rights officer Tex Harris, who tried making human rights abuses public.
The declassification of other top secret documents is expected to occur before the end of the year. Records of 14 intelligence agencies, including the CIA, FBI, and DIA, are expected to be included in the release.
I write this open letter, George, because you have been using your public platform to defend claims about Syria that I fear may be damaging for its people.
Most recently, you blogged a note about the 4th April chemical incident in Khan Sheikhoun, Syria, and you related this to the more general issue of competing narratives.
Professor Postol of MIT criticised the NATO/Gulf State account of the incident, and you say his claims ‘should be treated with great caution’. That’s fair enough. Shouldn’t we apply a similar standard of scrutiny to claims made on both sides? You replied to the Media Lens article reporting Postol’s claims without acknowledging that it also mentioned that ‘former and current UN weapons inspectors Hans Blix, Scott Ritter and Jerry Smith, as well as former CIA counterterrorism official Philip Giraldi, had all questioned the official narrative of what happened on April 4.’
We can be cautious about what they all say, of course, but I hope we may avoid the hubris of just dismissing their concerns.
There are serious unsettled questions about every aspect of the incident, not only the anomalies concerning time of incident, identity of victims, causes of death, role of White Helmets, and about whose interests it served, but also concerning the forensic evidence itself. Regarding the latest claim made by France, a very elementary issue is chain of custody: with no French representatives on the ground, the test samples appear to have come from Al Qaeda by way of Turkey. Must we simply trust the testimony of a terrorist organisation in collaboration with a major conduit and supplier of anti-government forces in Syria? Do we find any corroboration? Western powers, you might be aware, have blocked the independent investigation sought by Russia.
The reported results themselves are opaque. The French reports are no clearer on the science than the earlier UK ones (and I note that the UK has since gone rather silent about those rather than address questions about them). Moreover, the French claims rely on the veracity of claims relating to a 2013 incident, which are highly questionable.
Still, even aside from the facts around the Khan Sheikhoun incident, you are confident that there is a mountain of compelling evidence that is disregarded by ‘a few contrarians’. In tweets, too, you seem to be impressed by the sheer quantity of evidence purporting to establish President Assad’s complicity in war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Yet you surely realise that what actually matters is the quality of evidence?
I therefore ask you: what evidence are you referring to? Whose evidence? In your note you link to a Guardian article by an Egyptian, raised in Dubai and living in Lebanon, who conveys reports from an Al Qaeda base; you also link to another Guardian article, by the same author, reporting claims from Turkey – one of the chief supporters of anti-government forces. Meanwhile, on twitter, you respond to ‘contrarians’ with the advice to read a lengthy thread authored by Kuwaiti activist Iyad El-Baghdadi who is renowned for talking up the “Arab Spring”. Based in Norway, he cites evidence from sources like the New York Times.
Why should utterances from your recommended sources inspire less caution than those of MIT professors and professional weapons inspectors? You seem to think that anyone who questions the official narrative is a conspiracy nut, or an ‘Assadist’. I personally find a little condescending your reference to ‘an element on the left that seems determined to produce a mirror image of the Washington Consensus … and denies the crimes of the West’s official enemies.’ 
At any rate, that begs the question: what crimes have been demonstrated? We have had mountains of allegations from organisations like Amnesty International since the “Arab Spring”, but what credible evidence have they ever produced?
I earnestly invite you to cite some. Having looked at their reports over the past ten years myself, I have not found it. Instead, I have found very clear traces of a narrative produced in Washington. And not just a narrative, but a strategy for getting the liberal intelligentsia on board with the hawks.
I think we need to look very closely at who is being misled by whom. Wouldn’t you agree?
Meanwhile, with the upcoming UK election to think about – and the imperative of removing this warmongering government – I will understand if you direct your focus and energies towards areas of public life where you have a strong intellectual and political contribution to make.
In memory of all Syrian children, taken by violence.
 You might start by taking a more dispassionate look at the people you imagine have ‘debunked’ criticism of the mainstream narrative. Your link to Louis Proyect’s attack on Postol, for instance, betrays what I would regard as some want of judgement. In an update to your note, you add a link to further ‘debunkers’ who turn out to rely on the same Guardian evidence you are claiming they offer further support for! Incidentally, when the Guardian tells readers it is ‘the first western media organisation to visit the site of the attack’ it should really be careful what it boasts about, given that the area is controlled by Al Qaeda.
 I understand from scientists that the unanswered questions include these:
- Did the Porton Down analysis of samples collected from the alleged attacks on 19 March 2013 support the finding of the Russian Laboratory for Chemical and Analytical Control that the material contained diisopropyl fluorophosphate and that the sarin had been produced under “cottage industry” conditions?
- What were the findings with respect to the synthetic pathway by which the sarin was produced? Specifically, did this synthesis start from trimethyl phosphite (which the Foreign Secretary stated had been sold to the Syrian government by UK companies) or from phosphorus trichloride or elemental phosphorus (which Turkish prosecutors stated was on the procurement list of the Nusra Front members arrested in Adana, Turkey in May 2013)?
- What efforts have been made by the UK government to establish whether or not the sarin used in alleged chemical attacks in Syria originated from Syrian military stocks, based on comparison of the chemical profiles of the environmental samples analysed at DSTL with the stocks of the sarin precursor methylphosphonyl difluoride that were profiled by mass spectrometry under the supervison of OPCW inspectors before they were destroyed on the MV Cape Ray in 2014?
Those of us who struggle even to understand questions like these can very easily be bamboozled by bullshit responses from government spokespersons. But when scientists put such questions, I think they merit answer rather than dismissive tweets bidding us trust the word of foreign activists. I am grateful to Professor Paul McKeigue for the formulation of these questions.
 For a more considered view of disagreement on the left, see, e.g., the recent short talk by Jay Tharappel on ‘Syria and the Confusion of the Western Left’: https://www.facebook.com/Chacko.TJ/videos/10158536910055697/
After any crime, regardless of scale, a swift, impartial and independent investigation is required if any accountability at all is desired. The French government, in the wake of an alleged “chemical weapons attack” near Syria’s northern city of Idlib, has claimed that it is “committed to ensuring that the perpetrators of this heinous attack are held accountable.”
The LA Times in an article titled, “Syrian chemical attack bears Assad’s signature, France says,” would report:
A six-page report by French intelligence services claims the nerve agent came from hidden stockpiles of chemical weapons that Damascus was supposed to have destroyed under an U.S.- and Russian-brokered deal in 2013.
Were it the case that France was seriously committed to holding the perpetrators of the alleged attack accountable, the French government would need to call for an impartial, independent investigation into the attack, and as soon as possible. Instead, it decided to carry out its own “investigation,” ensuring neither impartiality nor independence, and by consequence, achieving no accountability.
Neither Impartial nor Independent
France is one of several nations directly involved in a multi-year US-led effort to violently overthrow the Syrian government.
Terrorist organizations fighting in and along Syria’s borders have, for 6 years now, brandished the black, green, white and red colonial flag of French-occupied Syria.
France itself has admittedly supplied militant groups fighting the Syrian government with financial, military and political support with many prominent members of the so-called residing within French territory, leading political efforts to overthrow the Syrian government remotely.
In a 2014 France 24 article titled, “France delivered arms to Syrian rebels, Hollande confirms,” its revealed that:
President Francois Hollande said on Thursday that France had delivered weapons to rebels battling the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad “a few months ago.”
The deliveries took place “a few months ago, when the Syrian rebels had to face both the armies of the dictator Bashar al-Assad and this terrorist group Islamic State,” Hollande told reporters on a tour of the French island of La Reunion.
“We cannot leave the only Syrians who are preparing a democracy … without weapons,” he added.
And French warplanes are flying over Syria, without a UN resolution or invitation by the Syrian government, bombarding its territory in an alleged effort to wage war on the very militant groups it has flooded with arms, cash and others forms of material support.
A nation directly involved in efforts to violently overthrow a government cannot in any rational way conduct an impartial, independent investigation into the actions of that targeted government.
France, by all legal metrics, is a compromised party with a direct stake in finding the Syrian government “guilty.” The evidence France claims to possess must be verified by an impartial, independent party, but even at face value, French “evidence” appears illogical and intentionally misrepresented amid its most recent claims.
French “Intel” Not Adding Up
French evidence is based on what French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault himself claims is, “a certain source,” which, in wording alone, resembles the ambiguity and oblique tactics used by the United States in the lead up to the 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq. It is also language that would be inadmissible during any genuine legal proceeding.
In 2003, US and European politicians during interviews, press conferences and public speeches relied heavily on alleged evidence produced by similar unnamed sources. It would later be revealed that those sources were intentionally lying, and were intentionally cited in a wider effort to fabricate a false pretext for war with Iraq.
Additionally, France has attempted to implicate the Syrian government in the most recent alleged attack by claiming the same sarin nerve agent was also used in an alleged attack in 2013.
However, were this true, such a claim would require an indisputable conclusion drawn by an impartial, independent investigation that the 2013 attack was indeed carried out by the Syrian government, using not only sarin nerve agent, but the precise variant allegedly used in this most recent attack.
No such conclusion exists, with France failing to produce any of these basic legal or rational prerequisites, going far in explaining why the French foreign minister has resorted to the same ambiguous rhetoric used by US politicians in the lead up to the 2003 Iraq invasion.
Despite this, the French government and those across US, European and Persian Gulf media have attempted to project confidence in this “investigation.” However, should the French government and its allies be so confident in their findings, they would invite a truly impartial, independent party to open up its own investigation, consider and verify this evidence and draw its own, impartial and independent conclusions.
The political capital provided to France and its allies by doing this would be enormous, yet no such investigation is being called for by France, the United States or any of the other parties involved in the protracted, violent dismemberment of the Syrian state. The answer to “why” they would forgo such a politically lucrative move can be explained by a total lack of confidence in their evidence, or certain knowledge that their “evidence” is entirely fabricated, and genuine investigations would only confirm that publicly.
And in fact, the only calls for a truly independent investigation have come from the Syrian government itself as well as from its allies in Moscow and Tehran. It should be noted that these nations were also among those opposed to the US invasion of Iraq based on similarly fabricated claims.
In all, the French “investigation” is nothing of the sort. Had the French government been truly committed to discovering the truth behind the recent alleged chemical weapons attack, it would have recognized its own limits as an impartial, independent investigator and forwarded its “evidence” to a party that is capable of a real investigation. Instead, it has embarked on an intentionally dishonest course of actions to conceal its lack of impartiality and independence, using tenuous if not fabricated claims to further deepen a violent, deadly and supremely costly conflict it itself is a key instigator of.
Generally speaking, ideas are like plants and animals. Over time, they evolve, things change – we keep what works and throw away what doesn’t. Humans don’t have tails. Dolphins don’t have feet. Moths without camouflage get eaten. Methods and techniques are perfected, and accepted as “the way things are done”.
If you want to move something efficiently, you need wheels. If you want to lift something heavy, you use levers and pulleys. We make knives out of steel because it’s hard and can take an edge. We make clothes out of wool because its warm. Nobody makes teapots out of chocolate.
… and yet terrorists routinely use tools that are not fit for purpose.
As part of examination of the terrorist narrative, it’s time we asked ourselves – what exactly is the goal of “terrorism”?
What do terrorists want?
We’ve all lived with the concept of terrorism for so long now, we have perhaps forgotten what it means. It has become, as all words repeated ad nauseam , a collection of nonsense syllables. It has a cultural and social fog of ephemeral “meaning”, removed from solid language or the idea of definition in the true sense of the word.
For a generation or more a terrorist has simply been a man with a broken ideology, a black balaclava and a homemade bomb. We never give any thought to their ideals or greater plans, because they never have any. They are, in the specific, always insane. Always lone lunatics, depraved beyond reason. And yet, in the collective, they make up a great black-clad mass of “enemy”. A cloud of terrifying “them”, hell-bent on destroying “us”.
In this way terrorism, as a concept, is removed from reality. Inept idiots stuffing their y-fronts with C4 and their shoes with homemade napalm will never coalesce into an army, no matter how many of them there are. And yet somehow we are able to marry these oxymoronic ideas.
The fact that the aims of the movement are never successfully pursued by the individual apparent devotees should give us all pause. We should ask ourselves, as terrorist X kills Y number of people in city Z, what was he trying to achieve?
Terrorism is defined as:
The unlawful use of violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims”
But what are these “political aims”? Historically speaking, there are two categories of goal pursued by behaviours that are traditionally branded “terrorism”. Legislative policy change, and military victory – or “Activism” and “warfare”. Let us compare “terrorism” with each in turn.
Terrorism vs activism: Moral worthiness and good PR
The 20th century was marked with regular domestic political movements of varying size, and varying results. Generally speaking they were concerned with civil rights. Equality. Suffrage. Taxation. Workers’ rights. Religion. Sexuality. The basic ability of a human individual to exist in what is notionally a fair world.
It is commonly recognised that the most effective, and powerful, modus operandi for achieving these domestic political changes is through peaceful protest, industrial action, and non-violent resistance.
Workers, generations past, have simply denied their labour to their employers. In this way, you both make life more difficult for the people in authority and demonstrate the value of your work: “Look,” you say, “your country needs us to run it. Respect our sweat, as it makes the world turn.”
Martin Luther King championed black rights, and civil rights for all, through peaceful marches and eloquent speeches. Make the legal, social, and moral case for change and allow logic and justice to stand up for themselves. There is undeniable power in that. The same can be said for Gandhi.
Movements abstaining from violence retain the moral high ground, win over public support and – most importantly – prevent the state from branding them dangerous criminals, without revealing authoritarian hypocrisy. All of these movements were, eventually, met with state-backed violence and repression. Violent repression of non-violent protest is the greatest argument in favour of change, as it perfectly encapsulates the inherent contempt that power has for justice.
Even the more martial political activists and movements, those who believed in some restricted forms of violence – such as the Malcolm X or the Suffragettes – tended to turn their anger on property and authority… never on civilians.
It is the most basic common sense to realise that political change in the Western world can only be achieved through generating public support. Even unionised industrial action is often criticised in the media for “alienating the public”. You will never generate said support through acts of random, indiscriminate violence.
Further, if the desired “political aims” of terrorist attacks are legislative changes, why do they never articulate these demands? Where, as Bashar al-Assad has asked before, are the leaders, thinkers and ideas? Do ISIS or al-Qaeda or Boko Haram have a political wing, waiting to make laws in a parliament?
No. They exist only as formless threat. They demand our attention, and yet ask no concessions. They have no policies except being the embodiment of “evil”, and take up no position except “anti-West”. Their great goal, their “caliphate”? Nothing but a Mordor-like nightmare world of fiction. A dark dream built on tabloid headlines and fictional currencies and shocking YouTube videos. No diplomats make alliances in ISIS’ name. No lawyers make legal arguments for the state’s existence. No history serves as precedent for this “nation”.
It seems logical, then, to assume that domestic policy changes aren’t the true agenda of most modern “terrorism”. You don’t change systemic Islamophobia, for example, by stabbing a policeman outside the Houses of Parliament.
Terrorism vs Warfare – Victory conditions and choice of targets
Non-state actors, rebels, partisans, revolutionaries, insurgents and guerillas can all fall under the wide umbrella of “terrorists”. However, unlike modern terrorists, these groups have a definitive purpose. Clear-cut victory conditions, and a pragmatic approach to achieving them.
It’s a simple strategic truth, passed down from time immemorial, that a small partisan force cannot face a large occupying force in open battle. Insurgents and guerillas learn to pick their targets with care. Use the landscape to their advantage. Sabotage infrastructure. Assassinate key leaders.
Scottish and Welsh armies ambushed occupying English forces in 14th century. In the American Revolutionary War, the Continental Army performed hit-and-run raids on British foraging parties. French Resistance fighters and Czech partisans used sabotage and targeted key Nazi leaders for assassination during WWII. The North Vietnamese and Afghan soldiers used territorial knowledge to constantly undermine and confound American and Soviet forces trained for more prolonged pitched battles. The list is endless, up to and including Iraq and Afghanistan in America’s perpetual “war on terror”.
If your objective is to drain the resources of an occupying force, you target supply lines and commanding officers. If your aim is to inflict a big impact with limited resources, you target key infrastructure.
The Ukrainian government and associated right-wing militias deliberately cut-off water and power to Crimea and other former-Ukrainian territories in the east of the country. Israel regularly punitively cut-off Gaza’s access to water and power.
These are the basic, horrible, pragmatic facts of warfare.
We are constantly told we are “under threat”, that we are at war with people who “hate our freedoms”. The war on terror has been going on for 16 years, and though we haven’t won…we’re certainly not losing. And that’s almost entirely because the terrorists don’t seem to be trying very hard.
So why don’t terrorists follow these guidelines? Where are the acts of high impact political or industrial sabotage?
If you consider America (along with NATO) as, essentially, one giant Imperial force occupying the majority of the world, what good does blowing up a bus or driving through a crowd really do? It might “terrorise” people, but it doesn’t achieve anything militarily significant. Even if your goal is simply to kill as many people, and do as much damage, as possible.
Take 9/11, for example, as a military attack it was pointless and ineffective. Yes, one could argue that taking out 3 buildings with two planes is unprecedented as far as efficiency goes, but what did it achieve? 3000 dead civilians of no strategic importance. A big hole in the side of the Pentagon where the receipts were kept, and levelling the only 3 buildings in Manhattan that were more valuable as rubble than office space.
Why not fly those planes into nuclear power stations? Imagine 4 different airliners hitting four different nuclear reactors up and down the eastern United States? There are plenty to choose from, and if just 1/4 of them were successful there would have been destruction unmatched in the whole long history of sabotage. Power outages, civilian casualties, mass panic and long-term consequences of incalculable danger. Think Fukushima, only deliberate, and worse, and with a decent helping of American hysteria thrown in.
So why didn’t it happen?
Well, it wasn’t because it didn’t occur to them. In 2002, The Guardian reported on an Al-Jazeera interview with secret al-Qaeda sources inside Pakistan who claimed that nuclear reactors were the “original targets” for 9/11. So why didn’t they hit them? Well, because:
“al-Qaeda feared that such an attack “might get out of hand””
Yes, seriously. You see, they are all for death to America and destroying heretics… but only within reason.
In fact, despite the noted vulnerability of nuclear power stations to potential attack, and despite the CFR’s warnings that US forces had “found diagrams of American nuclear power plants” in al-Qaeda materials in Afghanistan” in 2002, it’s been 15 years and there has never been even one successful terrorist attack on any nuclear power station in the Western world.
Likewise dams, airports, television channels, factories and military bases. Western infrastructure has been virtually untouched during this “war”. Arabic and Middle Eastern infrastructure? Markedly less so.
ISIS, al-Qaeda, al-Nusra etc seem to have another “key leader” droned to death every other week. Have there been any terrorist assassination attempts on Western leader’s lives? None at all.
ISIS et al aren’t unaware of these tactics. They use them all the time… just only against the Syrian government.
The argument that modern terrorists would rather target Western “emblems” for “symbolic attacks” is absurd. Firstly the only “emblem” ever really attacked was the World Trade Center, which was never an emblem until after it was on fire. The Empire State Building and Statue of Liberty are both much bigger symbols to the American psyche. Secondly, nobody ever won a war with symbolic attacks.
No, the only rational analysis is that “terrorists” are either completely incapable of doing any real strategic damage to the West, or somehow judge it to be not in their interests to do so.
It’s easy to see the arguments that modern “terrorism” consistently uses tools and approaches proven to hinder the political progress of any movement, whilst engaging in impotent and pointless “military” tactics that offer no real threat to the Western way of life, or national security.
This kind of “Terrorism” is a relatively recent invention – no rational ideologue truly believes he furthers his minority cause by blowing up buildings or hurting civilians. There is not a single case, in the whole of human history, of these tactics working to secure their stated goal.
Let us revisit the above stated definition of terrorism:
The unlawful use of violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims”
Well what “political aims” have ever been achieved by modern terrorism? Is Palestine free? Is the American Empire brought low? Has Israel been annihilated? Obviously not, in fact the one time ISIS did attack the IDF, it was by accident. And they apologised.
Rather, as has been demonstrated repeatedly, terrorist attacks routinely (and notionally accidentally) serve one of three political purposes:
1. Create a reason to push for more centralised power within the attacked state – usually increased state powers of surveillance and/or decreased freedom for the citizenry (see London ’05, Paris ’14).
2. Create casus belli for a military intervention, or all out war, on foreign soil (see 9/11).
3. Undermine the security of a foreign government. Forcing them to commit resources to a war (Afghanistan 79, or Chechnya 2000), or else turn the government’s retaliation into a reason to attack them politically (Syria, Libya).
Throughout history terrorist attacks – from Ireland, to Chechnya, to the Maine, to the Reichstag fire – have tended to serve the interests of established power structures. This almost certainly cannot be accidental.
You could argue this is simply governments being opportunistic, but how fine is the line between taking advantage of an opportunity, and creating one? Indeed, given the compartmentalised, bureaucracy-ridden nature of the corridors of power, is there any reason to think such a line exists at all?
In Afghanistan, Muslim terrorists were funded by the CIA to overthrow the socialist government and undermine the USSR. In Ireland, the republican movement was funded by America. In Chechnya the IIB were funded by the CIA with the aim of Balkanising Russia. The list is endless.
Now, you can either subscribe to the naive “blowback” theory, where the government-created and funded terrorists turn on their creators, or you can assume that the same government which employs terrorists to further their interests overseas, will occasionally do so domestically as well.
With that in mind, it’s easy to conclude that “terrorism” is exactly what it sounds like. It exists, not to win a war or secure a freedom or defend a cause, but simply to scare people. The creation of an American military industrial complex that, at the end of the Cold War, suddenly found itself without an enemy. A sprawling Empire with no Barbarians at the gates.
Genuine attacks by CIA-backed lunatics, contrived false-flags or fictitious media creations… it makes no difference. Terrorism is there to act as a constant pulsing threat at the back of the collective imagination. To threaten us without seriously attacking us. To hate us without ever mortally hurting us. To “target” nuclear facilities… but somehow never quite follow through.
The final, absurd embodiment? ISIS. A scary sounding (English) acronym, scrawled across thousands of black banners and battle-standards. En evil empire of faceless men, tooling around the desert in matching Toyotas. Shooting high-definition recruitment videos with David Lean-esque wide-shots, to the strains of their theme song, to be shown on their own TV channel, complete with animated logo. Editing together jarring torture porn in front of stolen green-screens and uploading them to “ISIS-related” social media accounts that somehow never get closed.
If one true goal of terrorism is to promote fear in the citizenry, then the best defense is to reject fear. If terrorism seeks to make us act impulsively and foolishly, we should instead embrace reason.
How do you stop terrorism? You stop believing what you’re told to believe, and start investigating – every attack that is proved to be false-flag, or shown to have been misrepresented by the media (like the anthrax attacks in 2001, and the Gulf of Tonkin incident) weakens the integrity of future attacks. Every small awakening is a crack in the foundations of this terrible construct.
We need to ask ourselves – who stands to gain from our fear? What interests does public hysteria serve? Who profits from division in the 99%?
A rational and informed populace has only true enemy, and it is not terrorism or any of the other phantom horrors the 1% try to hang in front of our eyes. It is the elite themselves.
Baltimore County police – an early adopter of body cameras spending $12.5 million of taxpayer money in the name of transparency – is withholding footage in three police-involved shooting incidents.
County police shot six people in four separate incidents since January, killing two of them, according to the Baltimore Sun, which first broke the story.
Body cameras captured all of the shootings but footage has only been made available in one case. Police said the other cases are still being investigated, or the county prosecutors have told them the footage is evidence in upcoming trials.
“Release could compromise the prosecution and the defendant’s right to fair trials,” Baltimore County police spokeswoman Elise Armacost said in a statement to the Sun.
Armacost said those releases were quick because there were no charges against a suspect.
The missing footage involves three incidents.
In March, two officers investigating a convenience store robbery in Woodlawn shot a vehicle rushing towards them killing a 20-year-old, and injuring two others.
On April 12, police shot a 27-year-old man suspected of breaking into cars in Parkville who police said reached into his waistband.
Nine days later, an officer shot a woman who was a passenger in a stolen car that was being pursued by police.
The department first deployed body cameras last July, with the promise of a gradual rollout through December 2018, after fast-tracking $12.5 million program to equip officers.
The program was accelerated after a series of shootings, including the fatal shooting of Korryn Gaines, 23, and the wounding of her 5-year old son in August 2016 during a standoff in Randallstown. The shooting was not recorded. That led to County Executive Kevin Kamenetz and then-police chief Jim Johnson to speed up the program.
Currently about 550 of the county’s 1,900 officers have body cams. More than 1,400 are to have cameras by the end of this September.
Kamenetz wouldn’t comment on the lack of transparency but his spokesperson, Ellen Kobler, said he had been clear from the beginning “that footage from police body cameras has been and will continue to be released without delay as soon as it can be determined that the release of the footage will not compromise an ongoing investigation.”
The police previously released footage from a case in December when an officer shot and wounded a man who had opened the door of his apartment carrying a knife and saying “Time to die! Time to die!”
County prosecutors ruled the shooting justified.
In another incident in January, footage was released of a police officer fatally shooting a man who had threatened his family and who had raised a “powerful scoped rifle” as an officer was talking to him.
Kamenetz then replaced Police Chief Johnson with Terry Sheridan, who had previously been the chief.
Armacost said there had been no change in policy since Sheridan took over.
The ACLU of Maryland called attempts to withhold the footage “concerning.”
“Despite lip service being paid to transparency and accountability, both their policies and in their actions, what we are seeing is the opposite,” said David Rocah, an attorney with the organization. He said the footage means “we don’t simply have to take officer’s word for what happened in particular situation.”
Cole Weston, president of the Baltimore County Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 4, said he’s not in favour of video footage being released to the public before an investigation is closed.
“I think everybody should be cautious about just looking at… one particular piece of what happened,” he told the Sun. “Body camera footage is one piece of information that is captured as it related to an entire incident.”
By Mustafa Barghouti | Arab48 | April 23, 2017
Neither Netanyahu nor his ministers, who are suffering from hysteria as a result of the courageous Palestinian prisoners staging a hunger strike, have hesitated to call the prisoner leaders murderers.
The Israeli racism machine has not stopped making proposals characterised by severe cruelty and disgrace, such as the suggestion made by Israeli Minister of Intelligence and Transportation, Yisrael Katz, to execute prisoners. Defence Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, also suggested that the prisoners on hunger strike are left to starve to death, which is what happened with the Irish activists led by Bobby Sands.
With the same degree of disgrace, the Israel Prison Service decided to build a military field hospital that allows it to use the internationally prohibited method of “force feeding” because civilian doctors and their union refuse to commit this crime against the prisoners.
The brave Marwan Barghouthi does not need anyone to defend him. His article in the New York Times skilfully put the occupation in the docks, and he never killed anyone with his hands. The most important question here is: Who did? What is the record of Israeli leaders themselves? Those who are honoured in some international forums and are even awarded peace prizes.
Wasn’t Menachem Begin a murderer, responsible for the Deir Yassin massacres, as well as the other crimes committed by his organisation, Irgun, such as the bombing of the King David Hotel and the killing of Brits, Palestinians and Jews?
Furthermore, he and Yitzhak Shamir added to their record the assassination of the UN mediator, Count Bernadotte, and other international diplomats.
Didn’t the former Israeli Prime Minister and Defence Minister, Ehud Barak, use his hands and weapon to kill Kamal Nasser, Kamal Adwan, Abu Yousef Al-Najjar and his wife in Beirut? His unit also assassinated the Palestinian leader Abu Jihad in Tunisia.
Wasn’t it Shimon Peres who ordered the Qana massacre, killing women and children in a UN shelter in Lebanon?
Didn’t Netanyahu, Tzipi Livni and Barak all commit war crimes during the successive attacks on the Gaza Strip, which claimed the lives of thousands of martyrs, including hundreds of children? A file of these crimes is now on the ICC’s table.
Do we need to remind the Israeli ministers of Ariel Sharon’s past in the Qibya massacre in 1953, killing the Egyptian prisoners in 1967, and in the Sabra and Shatila massacre, which surpassed all other massacres in atrocity in 1982.
The Palestinian people have not and will not forget.
However, the world must remember. It is its duty to support the struggle of the prisoners who are practicing the most peaceful forms of struggle and the noblest form of popular resistance by staging a hunger strike. This is the only weapon they possess while trapped in Israeli prisons.
On Friday, we participated in a demonstration in the Jerusalem villages near Ofer Prison. We tried hard to raise our voices so that the prisoners inside would hear us, although they don’t need to hear us to know that their entire nation is behind them.
We had young boys with us who were born and lived their entire lives, like their parents, under occupation, oppression and discrimination.
These boys are not in need of incitement to become fighters. Their lives and suffering drives them to this, but their presence reminded us that the future generation of hope and victory is growing and maturing, despite the oppression, torture and attempts to spread frustration and despair; despite the escape of those who grew tired of the burdens of the struggle.
The Palestinian fighters are not killers, they fight for freedom and they create life and hope. They are willing to sacrifice their lives for the sake of their people’s freedom.
I bet the majority of Israeli ministers think of no one else other than themselves, their position and their future wealth.
That is why we are optimistic and they are pessimistic, drowning in their racism.
Translated by MEMO
From 2006 to 2012, The Guardian’s output on Venezuela was dominated by its Caracas-based reporter, Rory Carroll, who tirelessly demonized, ridiculed and lied about the government of former president Hugo Chavez as it made rapid progress on reducing poverty.
The Guardian recently published an editorial saying that President Nicolas Maduro’s government must be threatened with “pariah status” by the “international community“ if it does not hold presidential elections by the end of 2018. This comes from a newspaper that continually attempts to rehabilitate former British prime minister Tony Blair, a man who played a key role in launching a war of aggression that killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. But no pariah status for him.
The imperial hypocrisy on display is stunning.
The Guardian editors cited the New York Times editorial board to back up their stance on Venezuela. In 2002, the New York Times editorial applauded a U.S.-backed military coup that ousted Chavez for two days.
“With yesterday’s resignation of President Hugo Chavez, Venezuelan democracy is no longer threatened by a would-be dictator. Mr. Chavez, a ruinous demagogue, stepped down after the military intervened and handed power to a respected business leader, Pedro Carmona,” wrote the morally challenged “paper of record.”
In fact, two of the opposition leaders The Guardian mentioned in its editorial, Leopoldo Lopez and Henrique Capriles, not only supported but participated in that coup. They led the kidnapping of government officials on behalf of Pedro Carmona. The Guardian, however, made no mention of the 2002 coup at all.
That coup continues to hover over Venezuela because so many of the opposition’s most prominent leaders either supported or participated in it. Julio Borges, head of the opposition-led Nation Assembly, supported the 2002 coup and routinely makes very thinly veiled appeals for the military to oust Maduro. Borges just did so in the pages of El Universal, one of the country’s largest newspapers, where he regularly publishes op-eds.
The other day, a news report on Venezuela’s largest TV network, Venevision, featured opposition politician Marialbert Barrios making a very similar appeal to the military.
The Guardian editors regurgitate a talking point that has been common in the western media: that Venezuela was “once South America’s richest country.” That’s true if the measure one uses is gross domestic product, GDP, per capita adjusted by purchasing power parity, PPP. But that measure says nothing about distribution.
Venezuela had a poverty rate of 50 percent in 1998 when Chavez was first elected even though it was second in South America at the time by GDP per capita. By the United Nation’s Human Development Index, HDI, a composite measure that takes into account life expectancy, education and national income, Venezuela ranked below several Latin American countries in 1998. Its HDI ranking then improved drastically until 2013, the year Chavez died. Using the U.N.’s most recent data and taking full account of the recent devastating recession it has experienced, Venezuela continues to rank above most countries in South America by HDI despite ongoing economic hardships.
There certainly are avoidable child deaths in Venezuela as The Guardian editors said. There always have been, but such deaths are more prevalent throughout the rest of the region, including Peru, whose right-wing government has loudly demanded that Venezuela deal with its “humanitarian crisis.”
Then there is Colombia, a country that has millions of internally displaced people, rivaling Syria. Colombia is also a country with a military that is being investigated by the International Criminal Court for murdering thousands of innocent people. In The Guardian’s universe, this arms client state of the U.S. and U.K. is just another “respectable” member of the “international community” that must straighten out Venezuela.
The Guardian is inexcusably sloppy in other claims.
It says inflation is at 800 percent. Torino Capital, a source that is very critical of the Maduro government, said inflation averaged 299 percent last year and projects it will average 434 percent next year. Unemployment was at 7.3 percent last year. Torino also projects a very small contraction of real GDP (-0.5 percent) next year and a return to growth by 2018. It has also commissioned polls from Datanalisis, an opposition-aligned pollster. Incidentally, the president of Datanalisis, Luis Vicente Leon, also criticizes the government in the pages of El Universal on a regular basis. As of March, according to Datanalisis, Maduro’s approval rating was 24.1 percent and has been steadily increasing in 2017. At the same time, the approval ratings of the most popular opposition leaders have fallen to 40 percent. These facts have been blacked out by the international press.
The Maduro government has not dealt with the root cause of the economic crisis, but, through direct deliveries of supplies to the poor (where its political support is concentrated) it has clearly alleviated the suffering of the poorest to a significant extent. Rachael Boothroyd-Rojas, and independent journalist based in Caracas for many years, noted that “there is a government store just below where I live and I haven’t seen queues there for months! Last year they were awful.”
Boothroyd-Rojas reports that there are still queues outside stores in Caracas but that they are nothing like they were months ago, and that government direct deliveries to the poor “have made a big difference to those who receive them.”
It should be noted that in December 2015, Datanalisis said Maduro’s approval rating was 32 percent just before his allies won 41 percent of the vote in National Assembly elections. It is not hard to see why opposition leaders have decided to “up their game” in terms of economic and political sabotage. Opposition leaders have openly boasted of working to block the government’s access to external financing.
Boothroyd-Rojas, who lives in a poor Caracas neighborhood, has noted the contradictions the international press has embraced to put the best face it can on the opposition’s violence. Vandalism of public property, including hospitals in poor neighborhoods, is dishonestly pointed to as evidence that the poor are starting to turn on the government: a claim The Guardian editors make. But when the middle and upper-class nature of the protests is too obvious to deny, it is alleged that the poor are simply “too hungry” to join in.
The opposition has resorted to widespread vandalism, including the torching of a Supreme Court office, and marching into areas where they have not been issued authorization — precisely to prevent a repeat of the 2002 coup — to provoke confrontation which it then points to as “repression.”
Honest, informed reporting would quickly expose those cynical tactics which are the same ones used in 2002 and again in 2014, but that’s clearly beyond what The Guardian editors are willing or able to do. We can only hope they won’t run an op-ed about Venezuela written by Blair any time soon.
For over a week now France has claimed it has irrefutable evidence that Syrian military used gas against civilians earlier this month and would present it shortly.
It has now done so. It says it has determined that sarin used in the 2017 Khan Sheikhoun attack came from the same stock used in an earlier 2013 attack.
This is it. This is the extent of its super-duper evidence.
Because Paris “knows” the Syrian army used sarin in 2013, which Syria denies and was never proven, France now “knows” Syria also used sarin in 2017.
Anywhere else that would be called circular logic.
If anything, if samples from Khan Sheikhoun match sarin used in 2013 that makes it all the more likely that it came from rebel stock. The same stock they ultimately used to stage the East Ghouta false flag.
As clashes between the Maduro government in Venezuela and the opposition are getting more and more fierce, the US media is openly calling for an economic war against the Bolivarian Revolution government, blaming it for casualties on both sides of the conflict.
Speaking to Radio Sputnik’s Brian Becker, author, journalist and lecturer Arnold August noted that the US media has a very clear stance: that Maduro and his Bolivarian Revolution government are responsible for everything bad that is happening in the country. Those who do not blame Maduro directly nonetheless report on the issue in such a way as to create the impression that Maduro is responsible, August said.
For example, an April 24 opinion piece by the Washington Times is entitled “Venezuela’s coming civil war: Maduro is arming his thugs to crush the democratic hopes of his desperate people.”
Reuters took a more subtle approach, reporting casualties among civilians without naming who fired the shots, on April 25.
“A 42-year-old man who worked for local government in the Andean state of Merida died from a gunshot in the neck at a rally in favor of president Nicolas Maduro’s government, the state ombudsman and prosecutor’s office said,” the report reads.
“Another 54-year-old man was shot dead in the chest during a protest in the western agricultural state of Barinas, the state prosecutor’s office added without specifying the circumstances,” it continues.
Major media, such as the Miami Herald and CNN, reported in the last few days that the US will have to consider imposing “serious sanctions” on Venezuela, should Maduro fail to host “free and fair” elections, allowing opposition leaders to campaign, August recalled. The US media also purposefully omits reports of demonstrations by the Chavistas — the supporters of the acting government.
The Green Left news website, on the other hand, reported “tens of thousands” of pro-government activists. Deutsche Welle carefully refrained from separating the sides, giving an overall estimate of 6 million people protesting on April 19. August claimed there were 3 million pro-government protesters across the whole country. All agree that these demonstrations have been the largest in the history of the nation.
August mentioned an opinion piece written for CNN by Jose Miguel Vivanco and Tamara Taraciuk Broner, “high-ranking members” of Human Rights Watch, August explained. Human Rights Watch is heavily financed by George Soros, who is known to be a big proponent of regime change around the world.
Vivanco and Taraciuk’s piece promotes the narrative that all of the deaths and violence in the country are “rightfully” blamed on Maduro, and that international pressure is needed to restore “human rights and democracy in Venezuela.”
“This is one big lie, if I may be quite frank,” August commented.
The US may be up to more than just harsh words in the media, August noted. On April 24, the Maduro government seized a General Motors factory in Venezuela, forcing the company to flee the country, leaving 2,700 people without jobs.
Officially, GM did not pay its taxes and refused to conform to “basic economic and financial rules,” August explains.
But he speculates that GM could have been involved in a darker scheme, similar to what happened in Chile in the 1973 coup d’état against Salvador Allende government.
“Main enterprises in Venezuela — General Motors, but there are others as well — were specifically organizing to hoard goods, to keep it away from the people, in order to create problems, to create a situation where people are starving, etc.,” August told Becker, adding that US companies also cut flights to Venezuela in an attempt to harm its income from tourism.
“It is undeniable that there are internal problems and weaknesses in the economy under the Bolivarian Revolution, but the main feature of the problem at this time is what has been induced and still being induced by the US and its allies,” he said.
How biased are the US media, really? This is a frequently asked question. The answer is – they are biased very much and they know how to instill the vision of things in a quiet and unobtrusive way. Here is an example to prove the point.
«Defense Secretary Mattis Arrives at Only US Base in Africa» reads the Voice of America’s headline on April 23. «Only US Base in Africa»? It’s hard to believe one’s eyes but that’s what it says. This is a good example of what is called «inaccurate reporting», to put it mildly. Probably, some people will call it outright distortion because anyone who knows the first thing about military matters knows it has nothing to do with reality.
Suffice it to take a cursory look at the US military presence on the continent. Guess who is spending $100 million to build a new drone base in Niger? What about a “cooperative security location” in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, which provides surveillance and intelligence over the entire Sahel?
In recent years, the US Army has rolled out an extensive network of over 60 outposts and access points in at least 34 African countries – more than 60 percent of the nations on the continent. To compare, the US has only 50 diplomatic missions in Africa.
In his 2015 article for TomDispatch.com, Nick Turse, disclosed the existence of an «America’s empire» comprising dozens of US military installations in Africa, besides Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti. These numerous cooperative security locations (CSLs), forward operating locations (FOLs) and other outposts have been built by the US in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Chad, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Mali, Niger, Senegal, the Seychelles, Somalia, South Sudan, and Uganda. The US military also has had access to locations in Algeria, Botswana, Namibia, São Tomé and Príncipe, Sierra Leone, Tunisia, Zambia and other countries.
According to a rough guide of foreign bases in Africa, the US military uses Garoua airport in northern Cameroon as a drone base for operations in northeastern Nigeria. It houses Predator drones and some 300 US soldiers. Predator and Reaper drones are based in Ndjamena, the capital of Chad. In Kenia, the military uses Camp Simba in Manda Bay as a base for naval personnel and Green Berets. It also houses armed drones for operations in Somalia and Yemen. In Niger, the American armed forces use Agadez, capable of handling large transport aircraft and armed Reaper drones. The base covers the Sahel and the Lake Chad Basin. US special operations forces (SOF) use compounds in Kismayo and Baledogle in Somalia. A drone base is operated on the island of Victoria, the Seychelles. PC-12 surveillance aircraft operate from Entebbe airport, Uganda.
At least 1,700 special operations forces (SOF) are deployed across 33 African nations at any given time supported by planes and drones. In 2006, just 1% of commandos sent overseas were deployed in the US Africa Command area of operations. In 2016, 17.26% of all US SOF – Navy SEALs and Green Berets among them deployed abroad were sent to Africa. They utilize nearly 20 different programs and activities – from training exercises to security cooperation engagements – these included Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Kenya, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Tanzania, and Uganda, among others.
Drone warfare is a special case as the vehicles are carrying out combat missions in peacetime. The full scope of the US unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) program has long been shrouded from view. Only sketchy details emerge off and on about individual drone strikes. The US African Unified Command (AFRICOM) is known to operate at least nine UAV bases in Africa located in Djibouti, the Seychelles, Uganda, Ethiopia, Kenya, South Sudan, Niger, Burkina Faso and Cameroon.
Housing 4,000 military and civilian personnel, Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, is the hub of a network of American drone bases in Africa. It is used for aerial strikes at insurgents in Yemen, Nigeria and Somalia, as well as exercising control over the Bab-el-Mandeb strait – a strategic maritime waterway linking the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean through the Gulf of Aden and Red Sea. In 2014, America signed a new 20-year lease on the base with the Djiboutian government, and committed over $1.4 billion to modernize and expand the facility in the years to come.
Unlike other installations, the Djibouti base is called a permanent facility. Not the only facility on the continent but the only «permanent» base. The US military uses the terms Main Operating Base (MOB), Forward Operating Site (FOS) and Cooperative Security Location (CSL). Camp Lemonnier is a MOB. The difference is the size of the presence and the scale of operations a facility is designed for. The terms used do not change the essence – the US uses a vast array of military installations in Africa and the presence keeps on growing. Temporary and permanent facilities are hard to distinguish – you sign an agreement and operate a facility as long as you need it. It’s just a play of words without any effect on substance. For instance, US forces are reported to be deployed in Europe on «rotational basis» or temporarily under the pretext of participation in exercises. Every army unit has an operational cycle, which inevitably includes various stages in training. From time to time, they leave home bases and rotate, moving from one location to another. All military career paths presuppose rotation. Using this or that term does not change the reality – US forces are constantly stationed near Russia’s borders on whatever «basis» it takes place.
It’s not only the increasing number military facilities in Africa and elsewhere. The Donald Trump administration is considering a military proposal that would designate various undeclared battlefields worldwide to be «temporary areas of active hostility». If approved, the measure would give military commanders the same latitude to launch strikes, raids and campaigns against enemy forces for up to six months that they possess in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria. No top level permission will be required anymore. The authority could be pre-delegated to Defense Secretary James Mattis on extremely sensitive operations. It could be pushed down all the way down to the head of the Joint Special Operations Command for raids or drone strikes against pre-approved targets. If a high-value target is spotted, a force can move into action without wasting time.
How all these activities jibe with the pre-election promise «A Trump administration will never ever put the interest of a foreign country before the interest of our country. From now on, it’s going to be America first» is an open question. Looks like the whole «black continent» has become an area of vital interests for the United States. But reading the media headlines one gets the impression that it’s just «one base» on the huge continent. Not a big thing from point of view of expenditure and the extent of dangerous involvement in faraway conflicts that have no relation whatsoever to the national security, a reader may say. The lesson is – take what the media tell you with a grain of salt, never at face value. It would stand everyone in good stead.
Will we survive the next 90 days?
There remains one good thing to say about Donald Trump: he is not Hillary. The boneheaded cruise missile attack in Syria would have occurred even earlier under President Rodham Clinton and there would undoubtedly be no-fly and safe zones already in place. Oh, and Ukraine and Georgia would be negotiating their entries into NATO to make sure that old Vlad Putin would be put on notice and understand that the days of namby-pamby jaw-jaw-jaw that characterized the Obama Administration are now ancient history.
Apart from that, I can only observe dumbstruck how yet again a candidate promising peace and dialogue could be flipped so quickly. Or maybe he never believed in anything he said, which is perhaps more to the point. Be that as it may, we now, after only ninety days in office, have a neo-neocon foreign policy and the folks clustered around their water coolers in the Washington think tanks are again smiling. And as the ruinous Syrian civil war continues thanks to American intervention, there are probably plenty of high fives within Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu government. Bibi again rules the roost.
The Israelis are no doubt particularly delighted to hear Donald Trump’s latest factually exempt voyage into the outer reaches of the galaxy regarding Iran. Or perhaps The Donald is only having continuing digestive problems dealing with “most beautiful piece of chocolate cake that you’ve ever seen” when dining with mortified Chinese leader Xi Jinping while simultaneously launching cruise missiles intended to send a message to Beijing’s ally Russia. It is inevitably Iran’s turn for vilification, so Trump, while conceding that the Iranians have been compliant with the nuclear weapons agreement they signed, also felt compelled to add that they continue to be a threat and have not entered into the “spirit” of the pact. Apparently the spirit codicil was somehow left out of the final draft, an interpretation that will no doubt surprise the other signatories consisting of Russia, China and the European Union.
To make its point that Tehran is somehow a cheater, the White House has ordered a 90 day review of Iran policy which will empower hardliners in that country in upcoming elections as well as nut cases like Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham on this side of the Atlantic. Iranian opposition groups like the terrorist Mujaheddin e Khalq (MEK) are already rising to the challenge by floating phony intelligence while Graham is currently advocating a preemptive attack on North Korea, conceding that it would be catastrophic for every country in the region while noting smugly that the carnage and destruction would not reach the United States. Too bad that Pyongyang’s fury cannot be directed straight to Graham’s house in South Carolina.
Graham is reportedly a good dancer and multitasker who can pivot back to Iran effortlessly as soon as Pyongyang is reduced to rubble, so those who want to deal with Iran sooner rather than later should not despair. As things continue to go south nearly everywhere, tension in the Middle East will no doubt lead to a rapidly deteriorating situation in the Persian Gulf that will require yet another ham-handed show of strength by the United States of Amnesia. There will be a war against Iran.
There have been a couple of other interesting stories circulating recently, all demonstrating that when Benjamin Franklin observed that we Americans had created a republic, “if we can keep it,” he was being particularly prescient. Robert Parry has observed that all the fuss about Russiagate is misleading as the only country that interferes with the political process in the U.S. persistently and successfully while also doing terrible damage to our national security is Israel. He wonders when we will have Congress convening investigative commissions to look into Israel-gate but then answers his own question by observing that it will never happen given who controls what in the United States. “No one dares suggest a probe of Israel-gate,” he concludes, but it is interesting and also encouraging to note that some Americans are actually starting to figure things out.
One of the curious things relating to the Russiagate scandal is the issue of who in the U.S. intelligence community leaked highly classified information to the media, a question which somehow seems to have disappeared from whatever final reckoning might be forthcoming. The issue is particularly relevant at the moment because there are reports that the Justice Department is pulling together a case against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange as part of a possible attempt to remove him forcibly from his refuge in Britain and try him for constituting what CIA Director Mike Pompeo describes as a “hostile intelligence service helped by Russia.” It all suggests that low hanging fruit is fair game while some “official” leakers at high levels are somehow being protected.
To cite another example of Justice Department hypocrisy, three current and four former U.S. officials leaked to Reuters last week’s story about a Russian think tank having created a plan to subvert the U.S. election. If that is so, their identities might be discernible or surmised. Why aren’t they in jail? Or is it that many in government now believe that Russia is fair game and are prepared to look the other way?
It is significant that the recent House Intelligence Committee hearing on Russiagate, featuring FBI Director James Comey and NSA Director Mike Rogers, provided very little new information even as it confirmed troubling revelations that had already surfaced regarding the corruption of the nation’s security services. Given that former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) head John Brennan and former Director of National Intelligence (DNI) chief James Clapper have been most frequently cited as the Obama administration’s possible bag men in arranging for the generation, collection, dissemination, and leaking of information disparaging to Trump, why weren’t they also being questioned?
The latest focus on Brennan, an Obama/Clinton loyalist who might safely be regarded as the most likely candidate seeking to discredit Team Trump and reap the benefits from Hillary, explores some suspicions about what actually took place last year and how it might have been arranged. The story broke in The Guardian on April 13th, headlined “British spies were first to spot Trump team’s links with Russia.” The article rehashes much old information, but, relying on a “source close to UK intelligence,” it describes how Britain’s NSA equivalent GCHQ obtained information late in 2015 relating to suspect “interactions” between Trump associates and the Russian intelligence. GCHQ reportedly routinely passed the information on to its U.S. liaison counterparts, and continued to do so over the next six months. The information was supplemented by similar reporting from a number of European intelligence services as well as the remaining “Five Eyes”: Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
According to the Guardian source and reporters, who are clearly hostile to Trump, the collection was not directed or targeted but was rather part of random interception of Russian communications. This may or may not be true but it serves as a useful cover story if someone was up to something naughty. And it also makes one wonder about the highly incriminating British intelligence sourced “dossier” on Trump and his associates, which The Guardian strangely does not mention, that appeared in January. Another apparent Guardian source called GCHQ the “principal whistleblower” in sharing the information that led to the opening of an FBI investigation in July 2016, a suggestion that the British role was not exactly passive.
The article goes on to describe how John Brennan, then CIA Chief, was personally the recipient of the material passed hand-to-hand at “director level” because of its sensitivity. So the Guardian article is essentially saying that the information was both routine and extremely sensitive, which would seem to be contradictory. Brennan was reportedly then the driving force behind launching a “major inter-agency investigation” and he briefed selected members of Congress regarding what he had obtained. Shortly thereafter leaks began appearing in the British press followed subsequently by revelations in the media in the U.S.
An October request to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court reportedly was initiated after particularly damaging information was received from Estonia concerning Trump associate Carter Page and also regarding allegations that a Russian bank was funneling money into the Trump campaign. This led to an investigation of Page and the tapping into servers in Trump Tower, where the presidential campaign offices were located. Estonia, it should be noted, was particularly concerned about Trump comments on de-emphasizing NATO and strongly supported a Hillary victory so it is fair to speculate that the intelligence provided might have been cherry picked to make a particular case, but The Guardian fails to make that obvious point.
It is interesting to note how for the first time, in this media account, Brennan surfaces as the central player in the investigation of Team Trump. And it is perhaps not out of line to suggest that the European reporting of information on Trump associates was not exactly due to random collection of information, as The Guardian seeks to demonstrate. It could just as easily have been arranged at the “director level” by Brennan and his counterparts to disrupt the Trump campaign and enhance the electability of Hillary Clinton, which would have directly benefited Brennan and his inner circle as well as the Europeans, all of whom feared a Trump victory. Intelligence can be skewed, “fixed around a policy” or even fabricated and can say whatever one wants it to say so it is fair to suggest that the role of a politically committed John Brennan remains to be explored much more fully.
It is now being reported that Brennan will be summoned to give testimony at a closed House Intelligence Committee meeting on May 2nd. Hopefully his comments will be somehow leaked to the media plus those of James Clapper, who is also scheduled to appear. Nevertheless, one imagines that, as was the case in Comey’s first appearance, both former officials will spend most of their time refusing to confirm or deny anything.
The active participation of Brennan in the background to the 2016 electoral campaign is unprecedented and it is also suggestive of what America’s national security agencies have become, basically creatures of the White House. It is hard to escape the conclusion that Benjamin Franklin would undoubtedly deplore the fact that we have failed to keep the republic that the Founding Fathers bequeathed to us. That would be bad enough, but we are slipping into a pattern of foreign wars based on tissues of lies and deceptions by the very people who are in place to protect us, quite possibly exemplified by unscrupulous and ambitious ladder climbers like John Brennan, who was also the architect of Obama’s assassination policy. If we go to war because of suspected lack of “spirit” in our adversaries or merely because someone in the White House had a piece of chocolate cake and wanted something to talk about over his cup of espresso then we are doomed as a nation.
Venezuela is in flames. Or at least parts of it is.
Since April 4th, opposition militants have been carrying out targeted acts of violence, vandalism and arson, as well as deliberately clashing with security forces in an attempt to plunge the country into total chaos and forcefully remove the elected socialist government. It is the continuation of an 18 year effort to topple the Bolivarian revolution by any means necessary — although you may have seen it miraculously recast in the mainstream media as “promoting a return to democracy” in the country.
A catalogue of the violence over the last 18 days is shocking – schools have been ransacked, a Supreme Court building has been torched, an air force base attacked, while public transport, health and veterinary facilities have been destroyed. At least 23 people have been left dead, with many more injured. In one of the most shocking cases of right-wing violence, at around 10pm on April 20th, women, children and over 50 newborn babies had to be evacuated by the government from a public maternity hospital which came under attack from opposition gangs.
Anywhere else in the western world, this would have given way to horrified international and national calls for an end to the violence, and for the swift prosecution of those responsible – making it all the more scandalous that these incidents have at best been ignored, and at worst totally misrepresented by the international press. Instead, those tasked with providing the public with unbiased reporting on international affairs have opted to uncritically parrot the Venezuelan opposition’s claims that the elected government is violently repressing peaceful protests, and holding it responsible for all deaths in connection with the demonstrations so far.
This narrative cannot be described as even a remotely accurate interpretation of the facts, and so it is important to set the record straight.
- To date, three people (two protesters and one bystander) have been killed by state security personnel, who were promptly arrested and in two cases indicted.
- A further five people have been directly killed by opposition protesters, while one person has died as an indirect result of the opposition roadblocks in Caracas (Ricarda Gonzalez, 89, who suffered from a CVA and was prevented from getting to a hospital).
- Five people have been shot in separate incidents near protests but under unclear circumstances. One of these victims was shot by an alleged opposition supporter from a high rise building, although the perpetrator’s political affiliation is yet to be confirmed.
- Nine protesters appear to have died as a result of their own actions (at least nine were electrocuted in the recent looting of a bakery).
A cursory look at the reality reveals that the government is clearly not responsible for the majority of these deaths. However, to paraphrase a remark recently made by Venezuelan author Jose Roberto Duque, the “truth has suddenly become useless”.
The media has failed to go into too much detail surrounding the exact circumstances of these deaths; precisely because the truth presents a serious obstacle to their narrative that all these people were killed during pro-democracy peaceful protests at the repressive hands of the authoritarian regime. This narrative isn’t just overly simplistic; it distorts the reality on the ground and misinforms international audiences.
Take this deliberately misleading paragraph from an article written by Nicholas Casey, the New York Time’s latest propaganda writer for the opposition.
“Protesters demanding elections and a return to democratic rule jammed the streets of Caracas and other Venezuelan cities on Wednesday. National Guard troops and government-aligned militias beat crowds back with tear gas, rubber bullets and other weapons, and at least three people were killed, according to human rights groups and news reports.”
Casey opted to omit the fact that none of those three deaths has so far been attributed to security forces, and one of the victims was an army sergeant killed by protesters themselves. Moreover, those on the receiving end of the “tear gas and rubber bullets” are not quite the “peaceful protesters” he so disingenuously implies. Anyone in the east of the city on April 19th, when both opposition and pro-government forces marched, could see how opposition supporters gathered in total freedom in Plaza Francia in Altamira, even buying anti-government t-shirts, caps, and purchasing ice-creams, and were able to march along the main highway linking the east of the city to the west.
Police “repression” has occurred in two specific scenarios. Firstly, when opposition gangs have set-up burning barricades and carried out violent acts of vandalism on the streets, including the targeting of public institutions – actions deliberately aimed at provoking photo-op worthy clashes with security forces. In the second instance, it has occurred when opposition marchers have attempted to cross a police line blocking them from getting to the working class municipality of El Libertador in the west of the city – where government support is traditionally concentrated. Again, this action is a deliberate attempt to provoke clashes with security forces and their supporters by the opposition, who are well aware that they have not been granted permission to march into El Libertador since a short-lived opposition-led coup in 2002, triggered by an anti-government march diverted towards Miraflores Presidential Palace in the west that left 19 dead by opposition sniper-fire.
It is hard to see how the police would not respond to these violent actions in a similar way, or even more violently, in the rest of the world. I can only imagine what would happen if armed and violent protesters consistently tried to march on the White House in Washington, or on No. 10 Downing Street in London. What if they assaulted police lines outside the White House, or attacked hospitals and looted businesses in London? Not only would they not be granted permission to continue, but protesters would most likely be shot, or end up in jail under anti-terrorism legislation for a very long time. But in Venezuela, the opposition can rely on its carte blanche from the mainstream press as its get out of jail card.
Needless to say, details of the undemocratic actions of opposition leaders and their supporters – ranging from these latest attacks to support for a violent coup in 2002 – are glaringly absent from virtually all news reports. This is despite the fact that the opposition’s current protest leaders – Julio Borges, Henrique Capriles Radonski, Henry Ramos Allup and Leopoldo Lopez – were active players in the 2002 coup.
The above article by Casey is a patent attempt to mislead the public over the dynamic on the ground in Venezuela. But unfortunately this is not just a case of one isolated news agency. The UK’s Guardian, for instance, provided its readers with an image gallery of the opposition’s April 19th march and “ensuing violence”, but failed to acknowledge that a pro-government march of similar size, if not greater, was also held the same day. They simply erased the actions of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people. Whichever news agency you check, be it the BBC, the Washington Post, CNN, or any other corporate outlet, you will find the same, uniform consensus in their Venezuela coverage. There are no words to describe this state of affairs other than a total media blockade.
The last time the country witnessed unrest on this scale was in 2014, when opposition militants again unsuccessfully tried to force the “exit” of President Nicolas Maduro using similar tactics, leading to the deaths of 43 people. The majority of those victims were innocent passersby caught in the violence or state security personnel, who were given the somewhat impossible task (just like today) of somehow refraining from responding with violence to people who are deliberately trying to provoke, maim and kill them.
While protests in 2014 were a response to violent unrest headed by the country’s right-wing student movement, this year’s commenced at the beginning of April after the Supreme Court issued a ruling granting the court temporary powers to assume the legislative functions of the National Assembly. It came in response to the Venezuelan parliament having been declared “in contempt of court” for more than six months, after the opposition refused to remove three of its lawmakers under investigation for electoral fraud in violation of a Supreme Court order. This is much like the current legal case hanging over the thirty Conservative MPs in the UK. The only difference in Venezuela is that the legislators were suspended from being sworn into parliament pending the results of the investigations. The opposition immediately hit out at the ruling, declaring it an attempted “coup” by the government that had come out of nowhere. The media swallowed this version of events hook, line and sinker. Although the ruling was overturned almost straightaway, the opposition took to the streets denouncing a “rupture of the constitutional order”.
This soon morphed into a hodgepodge of ultimatums which have dominated the opposition’s agenda since it won control of the country’s National Assembly (one of the five branches of the Venezuelan government) in December 2015, promising to have deposed the national government “within six months” – something beyond the power of Venezuela’s legislative branch. These demands include the release of what they call “political prisoners”, the opening-up of a “humanitarian channel” for receiving international aid and, most importantly, immediate regional and general elections. The street protests were an unmissable opportunity for the opposition, which was suffering from steadily decreasing popularity following an entire year of having squandered its legislative majority in parliament.
Evidently, long term strategy is not the opposition’s strong point. History testifies to the fact that they tend to go for maximum amount of damage in the minimum amount of time, no matter the cost. This brings us to why this kind of violence, which has been employed several times throughout the last 18 years by Venezuela’s well-seasoned opposition, is once again happening at this moment. If the government is so unpopular, as the opposition claims it is, why not just wait for the presidential elections in 2018 for their time to shine?
At this point it should be clear that the opposition’s only goal, far from promoting a “return” to democracy, is to step right over it. They want to remove the elected government more than a year ahead of scheduled elections. But they don’t want to stop there. As one opposition marcher told me on Wednesday: “Get your stuff together Maduro, because you’re going to jail”. The opposition’s goal is the total annihilation of Chavismo.
Whatever the government’s many errors and faults over the past four years under the leadership of Nicolas Maduro, progressives across the globe have an obligation to defend it against the opposition’s onslaught and the international media’s blockade. The alternative is the same savage neoliberalism – currently being mercilessly unleashed by Brazil’s unelected government – which previously squeezed blood from the entire continent throughout the 1980s and 1990s.
The slogan “No Volveran” (they shall not return) has never been more urgent.